The Bodhi Seal of the Patriarchs
|T’ien T’ai Seventh Patriarch
Venerable Tso Hsi Hsuan Lang
Commentary by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
|THE VENERABLE ONE'S NAME WAS HUI MING AND HE WAS FROM THE PROVINCE OF MU, THE COUNTY OF TUNG YANG. HE WAS THE SIXTH GENERATION GRANDSON OF THE GREAT MASTER FU. WHEN HE WAS FIFTY YEARS OF AGE HE LEFT THE HOME LIFE. WHEN HE HEARD THE PROPAGATION OF STOPPING AND CONTEMPLATING OF THE T'IEN T'AI SCHOOL, HE WENT TO STUDY IT. He went to T'ien T'ai Mountain to study the teachings first-hand. NOT LONG AFTER, HE COMPLETELY UNDERSTOOD AND AWAKENED TO THE TENETS OF THE ENTIRE SCHOOL. He learned very quickly. Not only did he understand it all, he was able to actually put it into practice. HE WENT TO LIVE IN A MOUNTAIN CAVE, and joined the company of the wild beasts. HE CALLED HIMSELF TSO HSI, "Left Brook." WHEN HE WASHED HIS BOWL, THE TROOPS OF MONKEYS WOULD FIGHT TO GET TO HOLD IT. After he finished eating, he would go wash his bowl and the monkeys would gather. WHEN HE RECITED THE SUTRAS, THE FLOCKS OF BIRDS WOULD FLY IN FORMATIONS. They would divide up into groups and do cross-pattern flights in the air above him. THEN A BLIND DOG ARRIVED ON THE MOUNTAIN.|
IT CONTINUALLY WHINED AND CROUCHED ON THE GROUND. When it got to the
mountain, it started howling. As it whined and cried it lay down on the ground
before the Master. THE MASTER PERFORMED REPENTANCES FOR ITS SAKE. Venerable
Tso Hsi said:
Born of greed, hatred, and stupidity,
And done with body, mouth, and mind,
You now repent of it entirely.
BEFORE TEN DAYS PASSED, THE DOG RECOVERED ITS VISION.
THE WATER ON THE MOUNTAIN DRIED UP. HE RAISED HIS STAFF AND PLANTED IT IN THE GROUND AND IMMEDIATELY A FOUNTAIN WELLED FORTH. He poked his tin staff into a crevice in a rock and water came out. HE VOWED TO BE BORN IN THE TUSHITA HEAVEN, AND IN THAT INSTANT OF TOTAL CONCENTRATED THOUGHT, A SUDDEN RESPONSE OCCURRED AS SHARIRA CAME DOWN FROM THE SKY. It was not necessarily one sharira that appeared probably many rained down. IN THE THIRTEENTH YEAR OF THE T'IEN PAO REIGN PERIOD of the T'ang Dynasty, ON THE NINETEENTH DAY OF THE NINTH MONTH, HE CALLED TOGETHER HIS DISCIPLES. HE SAID, "I HAVE PERFECTED THE PATH OF THE SIX IDENTITIES." This refers to six ways of being identical with the Buddha:
1. Identity with the Buddha in principle.
2. Identity with the Buddha in name.
3. Identity with the Buddha in contemplation and practice.
4. Identity with the Buddha in appearance.
5. Identity with the Buddha in partial certification.
6. Ultimate identity with the Buddha.
THE TEN THOUSAND PRACTICES ARE WITHOUT ATTAINMENT. There's no knowing, no attaining, no cultivation, and no certification. THE PRECEPTS ARE THE BASIS OF THE MIND. YOU SHOULD TAKE THEM AS YOUR MASTER." THEN HE SAT UPRIGHT AND TOOK HIS LEAVE. He sat there and said "Goodbye." It wasn't exactly "See you again," because he wasn't going to see them later. HIS POSTHUMOUS TITLE WAS "VENERABLE CLEARLY ENLIGHTENED." The Emperor bestowed this title upon him after his demise.
A VERSE IN HIS PRAISE SAYS:
HE ENTERED THE T'IEN T'AI LATE
BUT IN ONE SWALLOW HE GOT IT ALL.
HE MADE THE DHUTAS HIS OWN RULE.
DRINKING FROM A SPRING AND DWELLING IN A CAVE,
HE INFLUENCED AND TAUGHT THE BIRDS AND BEASTS.
THE SARIRAS DROPPED OUT OF THE SKY
HIS WAY WAS PERFECTED AND HIS CULTIVATION PURIFIED.
HE DISPLAYED A VERY FINE COMPORTMENT.
Master Tso Hsi was fifty before he left the home life and it was after that that he began to study the T'ien T'ai teachings—a very late start. His was not a case of entering the Way as a virgin youth. He cultivated the practices of "shaking up the spirit." In doing Dhuta practices one forces oneself on and never rests. For the sake of the Dharma one forgets one's fatigue. For the sake of the Dharma one forgets about everything else entirely. This is the way he kept himself going. This means he didn't have to have someone telling him, "You should cultivate well. You should guard the precepts." He watched over himself.
The birds did flight-formations for him to see and the monkeys came to hold up his bowl. He was a model for everyone. He was a good example.
ANOTHER VERSE IN HIS PRAISE SAYS:
AT FIFTY HE LEFT HOME
AND ALTHOUGH IT WAS RATHER LATE
WITH THE DHUTAS, THE ASCETIC PRACTICES,
HE PUSHED HIMSELF ON.
HIS SIX PARAMITAS CAUSED THE MAGIC MONKEYS
TO LISTEN TO HIS BIDDING.
AT EACH TURNING THE EFFICACIOUS BIRDS
PAID RESPECT TO HIS COMPORTMENT.
HE CULTIVATED REPENTANCES AND A BLIND DOG
REGAINED ITS SIGHT
WHEN HE LECTURED THE SUTRAS,
THE DEAF COULD HEAR ONCE MORE.
IT WAS DUE TO HIS TRUE SINCERITY
WHICH MOVED ALL CREATURES THAT
THOSE WITH SENTIENCE AND WITHOUT SENTIENCE
PERFECTED THE KNOWLEDGE OF ALL MODES.
Dharma Master Tso Hsi was comparatively late in leaving the home life at fifty years of age, but the time it took him to get enlightened wasn't late at all. He was extremely intense about his cultivation of the bitter practices. He wasn't the least bit sloppy at all. At all times he did things in a true way. He never put on a false front. At all times he forgot himself for the sake of the Dharma, he forgot his fatigue, he forgot everything in order to practice the Way.
One person's opinion as to why the monkeys held up his bowl is that probably when Master Hsuan Lang was finished eating, there was still food left in his bowl, so he was going to give the rest to the monkeys. But they couldn't wait. They all came up and tried to grab the bowl to get the food. But since they were grabbing from beneath the bowl, the effect was that of pushing up on the bowl and holding it aloft for the Master. Another person suggests that the reason they dared to be so bold with the Master when they would not have approached other people is that ordinary people have not certified to the state where they are of a single substance with the myriad creatures. Since they weren't one with them, when the monkeys saw them, they were scared and the birds were frightened as well. So even though the monkeys might clearly know there was food to be had, they would not dare approach others in the way they approached the Venerable Master. That's why the monkeys are referred to in the verse as "magical." They had a little bit going for them in that they recognized the Master enough to know that he had no killing in his nature.
The first opinion is very logical and the second opinion accords' with the explanation of one's accomplishment at that level of cultivation. For instance when the Venerable Hsu Yun was at Nan Hua Monastery, a fox took refuge with him and did not fear him. There were lots of things like that, which happened to the Master that didn't happen to other people. Although the fox had been raised in someone's home, still it was a case of a special response with the Way.
The Venerable Tso Hsi cultivated the Six Paramitas--giving, holding precepts, patience, vigor, ch'an samadhi, and prajna wisdom—just about to perfection, so the magical monkeys would listen to him.
"With each turning" refers to when the Master recited the Sutras. Each time he recited a sutra he was turning the Dharma wheel. Because the birds wanted to hear the Sutras, they came and flew back and forth while he was reciting. Why doesn't this kind of thing happen to you when you recite? It’s because you don't really know how to recite them.
I believe the dog was not totally blind. Otherwise how could it have gotten up on the mountain in the first place? I doubt if anyone brought it there. It seems logical that it came and found the Venerable Master on its own, wanting him to rescue it from its plight. It didn't know how to repent and reform on its own and it couldn't speak. Dharma Master Hsuan Lang repented on its behalf and the dog got its sight back. Why was it that these things happened? It was because Master Hsuan Lang had a true and sincere heart.